how to plan a hiking elopement blog post

How To Plan A Hiking Elopement in the Alps

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A hiking elopement in the Alps is something many adventurous couples dream of and it’s easy to see why. Scaling a magnificent mountain and saying your vows at the top is an absolutely awe-inspiring way to start the rest of your life together.

But a hiking elopement in the mountains isn’t the easiest to plan. You’ve may have wild weather to contend with, as well as potentially dangerous terrain and sometimes limited accommodation options. As a wedding photographer based in the heart of the Alps, I regularly join couples on their hiking elopement adventures and have learned through experience about the many challenges you might face when it comes to organising this kind of wedding. So if you’re about to plan a unique hiking elopement in the Alps, here are a few tips to get you started:

couple standing side by side on hiking trail

Choosing A Location For Your Hiking Elopement in the Alps

The Alps are home to some of the most amazing scenery in the world (I guess you knew that already). Wherever you look there are majestic peaks and stunning crystal-clear lakes. The Alps covers many areas and countries, but some of the most beautiful spots include:

  • Tyrol and the Salzkammergut in the Austrian Alps
  • The Dolomites in the Italian Alps
  • The Bernese Highlands in the Swiss Alps
  • The Julian Alps in Slovenia
  • The Bavarian Alps in Germany
  • Mont Blanc Massif in the French Alps

Some spots have become particularly famous in the Instagram age: the Tre Cime di Lavaredo and Lago di Braies in the Dolomites, Hallstatt in Austria, Lauterbrunnen and Zermatt in Switzerland, to name but a few. And don’t get me wrong, these places are jaw-droppingly gorgeous.

But they can also be jaw-droppingly full of other people. Do you really want to spend your beautiful elopement day waiting in a queue to grab THAT picture? Or do you want to spend it having an amazing adventure with the person you love most in the world? Thought so.

So when it comes to choosing a location, I always advise my couples to look beyond the Instagram hotspots and find the location that’s right for them. If you’ve always dreamed of hiking up a mountain and saying your vows at the top, there are hundreds of unknown peaks where the views are out of this world—and you’ll be the only people up there enjoying them. If you want to go hiking for 3 days without seeing another soul, there are plenty of remote parts of the Alps where that is entirely possible.

Bride and groom on a mountain top in the Italian Dolomite mountains

How do you find these places? Local knowledge is key. Make sure your photographer or wedding planner is based in the Alps (or has worked there for many years), as they will know plenty of secret spots that are far away from the crowds and ideal for your elopement day.

Some things to consider when choosing the location for your hiking elopement:

  • Ease of access of the general area – how easy is the area to get to and get around?
  • What altitude is the resort and highest peaks? And are we prepared for that?
  • The average costs of travelling to that area
  • The difficulty of the trails and terrain
  • Does dreaming about it light you on fire with excitement?

What is the best month for a hiking elopement?

The main hiking season in the Alps is June-October, but it’s not an exact science. Every year the length of the hiking season depends heavily on the length and amount of snow from the previous winter. Some years when there hasn’t been much snow the hiking trails can already be accessible from mid-May, whereas in other years in can be that you’ll have to hike through some snow even into July in higher or more shaded areas.

Most mountain huts open their doors early to mid-June (depending on the access conditions) and usually stay open until September/October (high-altitude huts close earlier than ones lower down).

Cable cars and mountain lifts are also running on a similar schedule, although in some areas you may find a few that open as early as mid-May and stay in operation until mid-October if the conditions allow.

My favourite months for hiking in the Alps are September and October. In these months the main summer tourism is over, most trails, lifts and mountain huts are still open and the weather is much more stable. July and August are often too busy (it’s the height of the European summer holidays), the temperatures can be too hot for hiking and it’s not unusual to get big thunderstorms in the evenings which makes hiking in the mountains dangerous if you are caught out in them.

Bride and groom on a mountain top in the Austrian Alps

Planning Your Hiking Elopement Route

Picking the right route is key to having the best time on your wedding day. Whilst I’m always down for an adventure, I’m not sure the day you get married is necessarily the best time to test your physical or mental limits.

You want your wedding day to be unforgettable for a good reason, not for an unexpected mountain rescue call-out. Look for a hike that is well within your comfort level and ability for your wedding day. The last think you want is to be a hot & sweaty mess for your photos, so this is the one time it really pays off to keep things chilled. Now is not the time to try to hike something that is beyond your ability and experience. You wedding day should be type 1 fun, if you know what I mean 😉

When it comes to planning the timings, remember that it’s your wedding. You’re not just on a mission. You’re here to enjoy every moment and take it all in. To stop and enjoy every viewpoint and enjoy the journey. While it may seem slow, in my experience it’s realistic to calculate covering approx. 1.5km in an hour once you add in photo stops and hiking at a slower pace to keep everyone cool.

Single or Multi-Day Hiking Elopement?

Once you know roughly where you want to go in the Alps, it’s time to start planning your route. First, think about what kind of route you want to do. Would you prefer an out-and-back hike or a round trip? Are you hoping to just do a short hike, for a few hours, or a longer point-to-point hike over multiple days? Do you want to hike up the day before, sleep in a mountain hut and wake up for a sunrise ceremony at the summit?

Tips For Planning A Multi-Day Hiking Elopement

A multi-day hike really turns your elopement into more of an adventure, and there are plenty of long-distance trails throughout the Alps that take anywhere between 2 and 30 days. Austria’s Eagle Walk and the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt are two of the most famous. One of my personal favourites is the Stubai High Trail, as you can do one single section, a few nights, or the entire route, as there are opportunities to ascend/descend to the valley at each stage.

If your hiking elopement is part of a longer, multi-day trip, is there somewhere you can leave the rest of your luggage and only hike with what you need for your elopement? Also think about where you want to spend your wedding night. Do you want to spend the night in a mountain hut in a bunk room with strangers or somewhere a bit more luxurious? Depending on what you have in mind, you could do like Adam & Michelle who ended their multi-day hike through the Dolomites with their elopement on the last day, spending their wedding nigh in a lovely hotel after a week sleeping in mountain huts.

Hiking elopement at San Martino di Castrozza in the Dolomites by Wild Connections Photography
Check out Adam & Michelle’s multi-day hiking elopement on the iconic Alta Via 2 hiking route in the Dolomites.

And finally, spend some time thinking about the weather. Is your route accessible in all weather conditions or do you need a bad weather back-up plan? Are you prepared to go hiking even if it’s cold and raining (or snowing)? If not, it’s probably good to have a plan B in the valley, just in case the weather doesn’t play ball on the day. And just because it’s summer, that doesn’t mean we don’t get unexpected snowfalls in September. In the mountains, anything can happen, so you have to be prepared to be flexible with your plans and to change them if the weather forecast changes at the last minute. This is another reason to hire a photographer who is knows the local area, as they will be able to easily come up with a backup plan if you need one.

Should You Hire A Mountain Guide?

Depending on how you envision your hiking elopement, you might want to consider hiring a mountain guide to accompany you on your adventure. When would you want a mountain guide? Here are a few reasons you might want to have a guide:

  • For a multi-day hike in alpine terrain if you’re not experienced in the mountains (or even if you are but you don’t know the area or speak the local language)
  • If you want to do any trek that involves crossing a glacier or other technical terrain
  • If you want to do a route the involves via ferrata or small section of climbing

Hiking Elopement Accommodation Options

Do you want to stay up on the mountain or down in the valley? If you’re only doing a one-day hike you’ll probably want to stay down in the valley, where you have plenty of accommodation options.

If you’re doing a multi-day hike at high altitude, there’s a good chance you’ll need to stay up in a mountain hut. These are definitely not luxury—many only consist of dorm rooms and cold showers. But they do have simple hot meals and an ultra-cosy atmosphere. And the experience of waking up to sunrise at the top of a mountain is simply unforgettable.

A luxury mountain hut in the Dolomites
One of the more “luxurious” mountain huts in the Dolomites, Rifugio Franz Kostner in Alta Badia

The Austrian Alpine Club has a list of mountain huts in Austria, Switzerland, Germany and the South Tyrol/Trentino region of Italy. For France and the rest of Italy, check out the local tourist board’s website. You should also remember that wild camping is not allowed everywhere in the Alps (it’s forbidden in Austria, for example).

Bride and groom outside a mountain hut in the Dolomites
Emma & Martin got up to watch the sunrise after sleeping in Rifugio Franz Kostner in the Dolomites.

What To Pack For A Hiking Elopement

Probably one of the most important questions, especially if you’re planning a multi-day hiking adventure. The number one thing to think about is clothing, obviously the warmer and more waterproof the better. But don’t forget about the other extreme: it can reach 40 degrees in most Alpine valleys in the summer so thin shirts that cover your arms and shoulders are a good idea. Also sun cream: you burn faster at altitude so even a short amount of time in the sun can result in a lobster look on your elopement day.

Aside from clothes, you depending on the route, you might need special equipment you need for the hike, like crampons or an ice-axe or a via ferrata set. But you’ll know this when you’re planning your route.

And of course, you’ll need an adequately sized and comfortable backpack to fit everything in. It’s a good idea to test out your backpack before your trip, that way you won’t spend your elopement suffering from unexpected backache.

Hiking Elopement Packing List

Single Day Hiking Elopement

Multi-Day Hiking Elopement

Mr & Mrs enamel camping mugs

Also anything special for your elopement ceremony, such as your rings (don’t forget these), vow books and any other special items like a hand-fasting cord or letters from your loved ones.

Related Reading:
Elopement details you don’t want to forget
How to personalise your elopement ceremony

Can I Hike In A Wedding Dress?

Yes, and many couples do! If you’re doing a one-day hike, you could theoretically wear it all day. Alternatively, if you know there’s somewhere you could get changed (like a mountain hut or if you’re not afraid to do a quick change in public) you can put it in your backpack and get changed in time for your ceremony.

The most important thing to keep in mind is safety. If you’re doing a more extreme hike or via ferrata, then a wedding dress may not be suitable if there is a risk of you tripping, it getting caught in any safety gear, or getting caught in the wind and pulling you off balance.

The other REALLY important thing to consider is going to be your footwear. I don’t recommend hiking anywhere in the Alps without the proper footwear. No matter how fancy your wedding dress, always wear your boots or hiking shoes with proper non-slip tread underneath your dress.

Bride wearing hiking boots in the Dolomites

Related Reading:
How To Choose An Adventure Wedding Dress
Best Places To Buy An Elopement Dress Online
Best Etsy Wedding Dress Designers

Can We Bring Family?

A lot of couples who opt for hiking elopements choose to do it with just the two of them, as it’s just less stress. But I have had some couples who have also chosen to include a small number of their closest friends and family on their wedding day too. Of course, when you start to include other people in your plans, the challenge is always considering their fitness & ability as well as their safety and comfort whilst also still keeping the day what you want it to be.

Family gather around bride and groom after hiking to mountain top to witness elopement ceremony

The most popular way to include them whilst also keeping the day true to what you want is to hold a ceremony with them and also do a hike with just the two of you where you say your private vows, either on the same day or on a separate day.

Related Reading:
How To Include Your Family In Your Elopement
Why You Need To Consider A Multi Day Elopement

Planning An Elopement Timeline

When it comes to planning a timeline for hiking elopements, there is no “one size fits all” approach, because every elopement is different. Some couples will happily get up at 4am for a sunrise hike while others would rather have a lazy morning and start their day after a leisurely breakfast. Every couple I work with has a different vision of how they want their day to be, and that’s the beauty with elopements. You get to design the day how you want. But for the sake of the blog post, here are a couple of examples of how a hiking elopement timeline can work in reality:

9-Hour Day

12pm – Lunch & getting ready
2pm – First look
3pm – Depart for trailhead
4pm – Hike up to mountain lake
5pm – Vow ceremony, followed by photos and picnic
7pm – Golden hour photos and start hike back to valley
9pm – Return to hotel & celebratory cocktails

Bride and groom in the snow by a mountain lake during a winter hiking elopement in the Austrian Alps

2-Day Elopement With Overnight in a Mountain Hut

10am – Depart hotel after breakfast and head to start of trail
All day – Hiking, enjoying the views, lunch break at a hut/picnic
4pm – Check-in at mountain hut for the night, shower
7pm – Dinner in mountain hut
9pm – Sunset photos then early to bed
5am – Alarm to get dressed for sunrise
6am – Sunrise vow ceremony & photos
7:30am – Breakfast in mountain hut
8:30am – Depart mountain hut for day of hiking
Afternoon/Evening – Return to hotel for afternoon of wellness, relaxing in spa & dinner in restaurant

Want Some Ideas?

Need some inspiration? Check out these awesome Alpine hiking elopements with some of my past couples.

Climbing & Hiking Elopement in the Dolomites
Alta Via 2 Trekking Elopement
Elopement ceremony in the Italian Alps by Wild Connections Photography
Micro Wedding in the Dolomites

Ready for your very own adventure?

Thinking of planning a hiking elopement in the Alps? Want to find the perfect secret spot for your elopement? From my base in Innsbruck, in the heart of the Alps, I work with couples to create the hiking elopement they’ve already dreamed of and produce photographic memories they can keep forever. My elopement packages start from €3000 for a half-day and my local knowledge is free.

Get in touch with me today to book your free elopement consultation.

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